Maybe it's something everyone asks in any city, but I get asked where I am from, or did I grow up in New Orleans
, as though to place my origin is to place me, to triangulate the source of influence that has bled into each facet of my personality. For a while when I was asked this, I would say Virginia
, where I went to college, because I would rather have been from there than from Maryland
, because it seems no one knows much about Maryland; to most, it's a pretty nondescript place, the only marker for memory is Baltimore
or the DC overlap.
I was born in Baltimore, but grew up no where near there. I grew up in Ocean City, and I guess for a while I didn't want to be associated with that area because again, no one knew where it was. It's a muted version of saying you're from Orlando, where people know nothing but Disneyworld, nothing but national attractions, the tourist biz.
I am learning that, for me anyway, where I am from denotes a lot about me, most of which I am not proud. Living in someone else's vacation spot isn't uplifting for your self-esteem, but it has made living in New Orleans an easy transition, although not a healthy one. Just because you lived near a nuclear plant or a federal prison as a child doesn't mean you liked it enough to include in your itinerary for future moves, yet you may find yourself near them again by default, almost out of habit for what is already familiar.
I recall several times I was listening to some video biography of a band or a writer or some other famous person, and they always start with where they grew up as a foundation; it's where we all start, literally, where we stem from even if we hated every minute of it or never wanted to leave. It's one of the first things you might ask when you meet someone new, and usually you will have little in common but it helps establish something, even if at first it's stereotypical and shallow. As you continue to know them, you may see their origin coming through in the choices they make, just as your life experiences frame your patterns and goals.
Where you're from is as inherent as your skin color, your philosophical standpoints, prejudices and pet peeves, as hard to escape from or come to terms with as your childhood or every step you've taken since then. And being one integral part of each of us, it was one that was pretty much a decision made without our consent, so that we are chained to it helplessly and at some point we all come to terms with how that has affected where we go from there.